Week three of the college football season brings us a few intriguing matchups and potential for some shake up in what has been an unmoving top fifteen to this point. Teams have a good idea where they stand at this point and are trying to iron out the details before heading into divisional play.
Onto the prime-time match ups for week three:
Michigan Wolverines @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The revamped Wolverines head into South Bend to face Sir Charles and the rebuilding Irish. Both teams are coming off down years--though, to say that Notre Dame's 3-9 season was anything less than apocalyptic is a lie--and looking to turn things around.
The Irish are counting heavily on Jimmy Clausen, the golden sophomore. His offensive line, however, isn't changed. Which usually is a good thing, but considering how porous last year's unit was, it's not really in this situation. The same can be said for a pretty bad defense from last year. How much difference can a year make with the same staff?
As for the Wolverines, they have question marks just about everywhere but running back on offense, but they can fall back on a strong defense led by a potentially dominant front four and a pair of the nation's best corners in Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren.
The key will be the battle in the trenches. If the Michigan front four can have a repeat of last year, getting to Clausen frequently, the Wolverines could walk away with this one. But the Michigan offense will still no doubt be in an adjustment period, keeping this close.
Michigan: 21 Notre Dame: 13
#1 Georgia Bulldogs @ South Carolina Gamecocks
The first test of the year for the highly-regarded Bulldogs is of the Steve Spurrier variety. Heisman candidates Knowshawn Moreno and Matthew Stafford will get an early chance to pad his resume, hoping to bring some hardware back to Athens.
South Carolina has talent all over the field. Stephen Garcia's reinstatement will likely mean he will take over the starting quarterback spot. The offense could thrive if receiver Kenny McKinley can stay on the field. The defense gets Jasper Brinkley but he is recovering from knee issues. They do have a potentially dominant pass rush with Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews
The loaded Bulldogs will have a challenge offensively. Moreno will look to slice, dice and burn past anyone in his way. Balanced with Stafford's sound passing skills and the Bulldogs will certainly be a handful all day long. The defense should bully a Gamecock attack that is weak up front.
Georgia: 23 South Carolina: 16
#3 Ohio State Buckeyes @ #5 USC Trojans
There is no better match up on the year as far as non-conference games go. OSU will step out of the friendly confines of the Shoe--this year at least--and head into the Coliseum. It is widely believed that the winner of this game is practically reserved a spot in the National Title game.
The Buckeyes will be stacked. An experienced quarterback (Todd Boeckman), a Heisman caliber back (Beanie Wells) and a stacked line to boot. Defensively, they will be one of the best in the nation. Led by a top flight secondary and one of the best linebackers in the nation (Laurinitis), these Buckeyes are a daunting task for anyone.
As for the Trojans, they have questions at quarterback and wide receiver, but the talent there is undeniable. As long as Matt Sanchez isn't a detriment, the offensive line and tremendous running game should hold the fort. Defensively, this unit may be even better than the OSU defense. Linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Malagua are likely top ten picks in the NFL next season and will be heat-seeking missiles.
This will be a classic Battle of the Bulge and a close contest, but ultimately a battle of the defenses. And as far as this writer is concerned, USC has the Bucks by a hair. Look for Malagua to proclaim his position as the top dog at the linebacker position.
USC: 24 Ohio State: 20
An updated look at the top 15.
#1 Georgia (3-0)
#2 Oklahoma (3-0)
#3 USC (2-0)
#4 Florida (2-0)
#5 West Virginia (2-0)
#6 Clemson (3-0)
#7 Missouri (2-0)
#8 LSU (3-0)
#9 Ohio State (2-1)
#10 Texas Tech (3-0)
#11 Auburn (3-0)
#12 Texas (2-0)
#13 BYU (3-0)
#14 Arizona State (3-0)
#15 Wisconsin (3-0)
Stay tuned for part 5!